Feeds

ISP fears RIP breach in quashing Anna bug

'Badly drafted' snooping charter leaves ISPs puzzled

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

One of the UK's largest independent ISPs has said that it may well have ran foul of the RIP Act in protecting its customers from the Anna Kournikova virus.

Claranet introduced a mail filter to ensure that the virus did not reach its 450,000 users, but by doing so, it believes it may have breached the controversial "charter for Government snooping" that is the RIP Act.

Steve Rawlinson, chief technical officer at Claranet, said: "Our own servers were immune to the attack, and we acted quickly to put in place measures on our servers to protect our customers from becoming infected with the extremely prolific Anna Kournikova virus."

The ISP has developed in-house software that would examine an email and reject it from the server if it contained the Anna Kournikova virus, thereby protecting Claranet's customers from the harmful virus. The mail filter was designed to examine the email header for the specific virus filename attachment, and if detected return a message to the sender with a note informing them of the infection.

"After obtaining legal advice, we are concerned that our action has meant that we have breached the RIP Act," said Rawlinson, who said he would raise the subject at the next meeting of ISP trade body, LINX.

Part of the Act states that it is an offence to "intentionally and without lawful authority" intercept any communication in the course of its transmission, something that Claranet is concerned it may have breached.

"We need clarification as to whether the measures that we introduced are considered to be interception," said Rawlinson. "There are provisions under the RIP Act that allow interception in order to ensure system integrity or to prevent crime, our actions could be covered by either of these conditions, but it is unclear. This needs to be cleared up in a code of practice or secondary legislation."

Dai Davis, an IT lawyer with the firm Nabarro Nathanson, agreed that the RIP Act was "badly drafted and ambiguous" but said that in his opinion Claranet's actions were likely to have been lawful.

"My reading is that it is lawful to intercept viruses, because it can be argued that nobody wants that communication, which is in any case illegal, but it's not lawful to intercept spam," said Davis, who said that ISPs would be well advised to put a clause in contracts allowing them to deal with virus-infected or spam email.

Last month, UUNet examined the headers of email messages to delete those associated with a spam attack it was dealing with at the time, which left many of the ISP's customers with severely affected services for almost a week. In clearing up after the attack, which involved deleting two million pieces of spam, UUNet may have breached the RIP Act, although the ISP has said its engineers did nothing illegal because their actions were done in connection with providing a telecommunications service.

Davis disputes this reading of the Act but said that whether an ISP was blocking viruses or spam it was very unlikely to be prosecuted. ®

Related Stories

Police request right to spy on every UK phone call and email
Email snooping row kicks off again
Dutch police arrest Anna Kornikova virus suspect
Anna Kournikova bug drops harmlessly onto the Net
Anna Kournikova virus spreading like wildfire
Spammer wrecks UUNet email service
UUNet still pole-axed

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.